Posted: 23 Feb 2012 08:13 AM PST
By Barry Rubin
Registering to run for president of Egypt will begin March 10. The military moved it up from April 15 to show that it is handing over power to the civilians. As I’ve said before, I’ve never seen any evidence that the army is not going to turn over control of the country to a new, elected president. All of the mass media and political hysteria to the contrary, the generals don’t want to hold onto the government.
Has the Brotherhood’s success in parliamentary elections gone to its head? Has the weak international response to its ascendancy emboldened the Islamists to seek total power now rather than go slow and be patient? It’s starting to look that way.
The Muslim Brotherhood has announced once again that it will not run a candidate for president in the elections projected for June. “The Muslim Brotherhood will not support Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh or any candidate,” says Muhammad al-Badi, the leader of the Brotherhood.
But this is misdirection. The Brotherhood’s influential spiritual advisor Yusuf al-Qaradawi is supporting Abul-Fotouh. And guess what? The Brotherhood is going to support Abul-Fotouh “unofficially.” How? Simple, through the “independent” Justice and Development party supporting an “independent” presidential candidate.
Brotherhood leader Muhammad al-Badi now says that the president must have an “Islamic background” and by that he rules out any “secular” candidate. And the head of the Freedom and Justice Party, which everyone in Egypt but apparently not in the Western media, knows is a Brotherhood front, Muhammad Morsi, said that Egypt’s new president must “be committed to the Islamic approach,” though he still says his party won’t have a candidate.
Egyptian voters who backed the Brotherhood–giving it 235 seats, 47 percent of those in parliament–will vote for someone. The Brotherhood doesn’t own their votes but presumably most of them will support an unofficial Brotherhood candidate.
The Salafists, with 121 seats, almost 25 percent of parliament, will probably have their own candidate.
While this seemed impossible last year it is now conceivable that the two leading presidential candidates will be Islamists and thus Egypt will have an Islamist president. That would mean the timetable for turning the country into an Islamist Sharia state could be vastly accelerated. It’s up to the Brotherhood to decide whether to move cautiously toward state power or floor the accelerator.
If the reported plan for the election is accurate, the rules drawn up by the military help the Islamists. To run for president requires endorsement by 30 members of parliament. Only four parties have that many–the Brotherhood’s front group, the Salafists, the Wafd, and the Egyptian Bloc (Free Egyptians Party). Can individual Brotherhood members endorse a candidate without facing party discipline? Again, since the Brotherhood’s party is nominally independent of the Brotherhood, al-Badi’s statement does not restrict its freedom of decision.
According to the Egyptian media, each party can nominate one candidate. While some among the 80 members of small parties or independents could band together in some combination to nominate someone, the maximum number of candidates would be restricted to five, probably less.